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African Child Policy Forum calls for immediate withdrawal of Bill to decriminalise Female Genital Mutilation in Gambia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 11 April 2024 – Africa’s leading child rights policy, advocacy and research centre is calling on the government of Gambia to withdraw a controversial law that decriminalises female genital mutilation (FGM). 

The Bill – which Gambian lawmakers voted to approve for its next parliamentary stage and which will now be reviewed by a committee before the final vote – would lift a ban on FGM which has been in place since 2015. It would also run counter to the country’s 2022 National Policy for the Elimination of FGM.

“If the law is repealed, Gambia will become the first country in the world to reverse a ban on FGM,” said Dr Joan Nyanyuki, Executive Director of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF). “Gambia has come a long way in realising children’s rights, and efforts made so far to ensure gender equality have been yielding fruits. Decriminalising FGM will reverse the progress made so far, increase girls’ vulnerability, diminish their agency and put their lives, health and development at risk.”

The 2015 law sets out jail terms of up to three years or a fine of 50,000 dalasis (US$700) for those who carry out FGM, with the possibility of life imprisonment if the victim dies. Just last year, three Gambian women were convicted of performing FGM on eight girls.

The Gambia has signed up to several child rights instruments including the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). 

“Taking any regressive measures goes against both the spirit and letter of these instruments,” added Dr Nyanyuki. “We call on the government of the Republic of Gambia to uphold its obligation to protect girls from harmful social and cultural practices, including FGM, by withdrawing this Bill.”

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